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You name it

Written by Rabbi Daniel Leeman

The exodus to Egypt is introduced as follows: “These are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming to Egypt” [1].
What is so important about mentioning their names? Furthermore, why not simply state “These are the Children of Israel who came to Egypt” without mentioning the word “names” at all – after all how else do we refer to people if not by their names? Come to think of it: by now we also know that they were “the Children of Israel” – this then is also superfluous!
Additionally why not describe them as having left Israel rather than coming to Egypt?
And finally, why is their arrival to Egypt described as “coming” rather than going, and why is it in the present tense?
Rabbi Bentzion Freedman used to be the mashgiach (spiritual overseer) of the Ponevezh Yeshiva until he, unfortunately he contracted Alzheimer disease. Currently he attends Kollel Beis Aron in Modiin Illit where he is brought daily to hear Torah classes.
One day, Rabbi Freedman decided that from then on, he would stand during class. And so it was. Until one day, an elderly man sitting to his side expressed that his standing up disturbed him. As soon as Rabbi Freedman heard this, he immediately sat down and hasn’t stood up during class since!
In all circumstances we should always remember who we really are.
“The names of the Children of Israel” – we are all intrinsically Children of Israel, just that we have also been given another name. As Children of Israel, we are all potentially spiritually connected to Israel. Wherever we go, whatever we might be doing, we will always be connected to Israel. Even if we are physically elsewhere, we are never completely removed from Israel. We never really go anywhere else; we are merely “going” or “coming” there – but never actually being completely there. Our “names” might go there – but we, the Children of Israel, do not.
We might have individual names, but we also have a collective true essence; our real name: the Children of Israel. ‘Shem’, meaning name, can also be vowelised ‘sham’, meaning there. We are always spiritually connected there: Israel. That is who we really are and that is what we should remember wherever we might be and whatever we might be doing.
Have a shemazing Shabbos,
Additional sources:
[1] Shemos 1:1

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